Price paid: $ 128
Purchased from: Guitar Center Online
Sound — 9
This review is for the EMG 57 & 66. They were supposedly made to have characteristics similar to PAF pickups. I've never owned a guitar with PAFs so I cannot compare to those, but I had an ESP LTD EC-1000 with 81/85 and that's what I will base my comparisons on. I swapped out the pickups because the 81/85 weren't cutting it for clean tones and they lacked versatility. They're awesome for metal and hard rock, but that's about it. The 57 and 66 are exactly what I'm looking for. They were very easy to swap in, they are very versatile, and they sound great clean or dirty. Unlike the 81/85, when played clean these notes bloom and sound richer while retaining that active electronics clarity. The gain is still quite high and will tend to push a clean amp a little bit, but it will sound much sweeter and livelier than what you normally get from an EMG. Again, I can only assume that these characteristics are more akin to PAFs, but these are exactly what I needed to conveniently replace my 81/85 and give me more versatility and great clean tones without sacrificing some of the great benefits of EMG active pickups.
Overall Impression — 9
Money very well spent for me. I originally got the EC-1000 guitar with 81/85 because in my early years of guitar playing I was headed in the direction of metal. Over the 12 years or so that I've had this guitar my tastes and style have evolved drastically and now I play all genres of music including pop, blues, jazz, folk, funk, classic rock, modern rock, metal. The 81/85 set only excelled in metal/hard rock, but was disappointing for anything else. The 57/66 now let's me happily play this guitar in any setting. *Note: I've been using the 18v mod in this guitar for a long time and am continuing to use it for these new pickups. Shouldn't change the essence of my review though, whether you're using 9v or 18v.
Reliability & Durability — 10
These pickups are still quite new, but I've had other EMG products for over a decade and they have never given me a problem. The solderless design only improves reliability and ease of maintenance. I've heard EMG's founder explain that even the space shuttle uses connection components instead of solder because it's more reliable and resistant to temperature changes. The pickup casing is brushed steel, which might make it seem very scratch-prone. But there is a kind of smooth coating over it that provides protection.